Family Self-Sufficiency (FSS) is one of the initiatives enacted in the National Housing Act of 1990. FSS utilizes the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) housing assistance to leverage public and private sector services and resources that can help families in assisted housing achieve economic independence. The use of housing as a stabilizing force permits families to invest their energies in other efforts including education and employment that are necessary to achieve self-sufficiency. The overriding theme of FSS is to empower people to take control of their lives by becoming independent, productive members of their communities.
To provide a participating family with housing assistance, case management and the supportive services necessary for the family to become gainfully employed and independent of welfare assistance over the course of five years.
Appalachian Foothills Housing Agency (AFHA) offers this program to families on Section 8 rental assistance. There are a limited number of FSS Program slots available, making it impossible to offer the program to all families. AFHA extends letters of invitation when slots are available to determine the interest families have in participating in the program. This is strictly a voluntary program. If a family accepts the invitation to participate, AFHA assigns a case manager to the family and a family assessment is conducted. The case manager will work with the family in drafting goals to be included in the FSS Contract of Participation and a plan to meet those goals. The case manager will facilitate the family’s access to services/resources and assist the family in meeting its goals under the contract.
The individual named head-of-household on the Section 8 contract must be the person who signs the FSS Contract of Participation. Any other adult in the household may choose to have an individual training and service plan, but the designated head-of-household must have an individual training and service plan which is a part of the FSS Contract of Participation.
In addition to providing stable housing and case management, the FSS Program provides for an escrow account which offers the family an opportunity to save money for the future. Upon completion of the FSS contract the savings in an escrow account can be used for whatever purpose the family desires. It is hoped that through education the family will choose to use the escrow money toward the down payment and closing costs of their own home. However the family does not have to go off Section 8 assistance to complete the FSS contract and receive their escrow balance.
Participants sign a FSS Contract of Participation giving them a five-year time frame to reach their goals. During this time frame, a training and service plan will be established which consists of:
- Employment skills
- Budget and credit counseling
- Money management
- Homeownership education.
Under the Housing Choice Voucher Program, as your earned income increases, so does your portion of the rent. However as an FSS Program participant, AFHA will matching the amount of your rent increase each month and place that matching amount into an escrow account (similar to a savings account that earns interest). This puts you, as an FSS Program participant, in a win—win situation: you are advancing in your career and AFHA is saving money for you while you do it.
Withdrawal of Escrow Account
When you have fulfilled the obligations set out in the FSS contract and reached the goals under the contract, you will be entitled to receive the savings AFHA has set aside in your name.